How To Dispose Of Coleman Fuel Canisters (Quickly & Easily!)

Dennis Howard
by Dennis Howard

One-pound Coleman fuel canisters are handy and efficient at providing fuel sources for camping stoves, lanterns, insect foggers, and a host of other applications. These small propane tanks are not refillable. The problem is disposing of the empty propane fuel canisters.

The best way to dispose of empty Coleman one-pound fuel canisters is to take them to a recycling center. You can check with your local waste disposal department for the best guidance in your area.

Seemingly empty Coleman one-pound propane cylinders are dangerous. Recycling centers have suffered serious damage because of unnoticed one-pound propane tanks. Many areas of the country classify one-pound propane bottles as Household Hazardous Waste (HHW) and require special handling of these materials.

Do You Need Waste or Junk Removal Services?

Get free, zero-commitment quotes from pro contractors near you.

If the Bottle Is Empty, Why is it so Dangerous?

When the Coleman one-pound propane bottle no longer supports a flame in your camp stove, it still contains propane vapor. This vapor is flammable and, under certain conditions, can be explosive.

Many recycling centers routinely separate metal from the rest of the recycled materials. The metal is then crushed or shredded to reduce its size and volume for transportation. When a pressure vessel like a Coleman one-pound propane bottle is crushed or shredded, it can catch fire or explode.

This danger of fire or explosion is the reason many cities class Coleman one-pound propane bottles as HHW. The one-pound propane canisters require special handling and require segregation from other materials.

Can I Puncture the Coleman Bottle and Toss it In the Trash?

You should never attempt to puncture a Coleman one-pound propane bottle. These tanks hold propane at high pressure and are much stronger than you might imagine. Puncturing one of these cylinders is not as easy as it sounds.

Also, the propane cylinder still contains propane vapors. They may even be under a small amount of pressure. If you create a spark while puncturing the one-pound propane cylinder, you risk a sudden and unexpected fire.

Doesn’t Coleman Provide a Way to Make a Propane Cylinder Safe to Toss in the Trash?

In 2009 Coleman began a program called Green Key. Each one-pound Coleman propane cylinder came with a Green Key tool allowing an empty Coleman propane tank to be rendered safe for disposal by recycling companies and waste disposal services.

Users could insert the Green Key tool into the valve of an empty one-pound propane bottle. Once inserted, the Green Key tool locked into the bottle. With the Green Key tool in place, the bottle was open and unusable. A Green Key fitted to a one-pound bottle made it safe to recycle.

Unfortunately, many recycling agencies and waste disposal organizations never accepted the Green Key tool program. These agencies refused to treat Green Key tools as a safe alternative. Coleman discontinued the program and no longer sells the Green Key tool with their propane cylinders.

My Recycling Center Instructions Are to Make the Propane Bottle Safe. How do I do That?

The main thing is to burn off as much of the residual gas in the canister as possible. To do this, you should follow a few simple steps.

Step 1 – Find a Suitable Place

Safely burning off any remaining propane from a Coleman one-pound propane bottle should be sone in a suitable location. The best locations are outdoors, where there is plenty of ventilation. Never, under any circumstances, perform these steps indoors.

Step 2 – Hook up the Bottle

You will need your Coleman stove or lantern. Hook the used bottle to the stove or lantern and light the burner. If the bottle is nearly empty, the flame may be weak and sputter. If you cannot get the burner to light, the canister is empty and ready for recycling.

Step 3 – Let it Burn

Should the burner in your Coleman stove or lantern light, let the flame burn until it goes out by itself. At this point, the Coleman one-pound propane bottle will contain less than one-gram of propane.

Step 4 – Off to the Recycler

With the excess propane burned off, the Coleman one-pound propane tank is ready for recycling. Contact your local recycling agency or waste disposal organization for instructions on where to drop off the empty propane cylinder.

A Word of Caution

Some variables can come into play when using this method of emptying a one-pound propane bottle. Temperature is one concern.

Propane is sensitive to temperature. A cold one-pound cylinder that won’t support a flame may produce more gas if the cylinder is warmed. Try to keep your cylinders warm before you attempt to burn off any leftover gas

Can I Refill My Coleman One-Pound Propane Cylinders?

There are devices on the market that claim to allow you to refill one-pound propane cylinders from larger tanks. You should remember that the Coleman one-pound propane tanks are disposable. Do not attempt to refill these small bottles.

If you look at your larger propane tank, you will notice that it has a special valve on top. This valve allows your propane dealer to refill the tank safely. The valve has a bleeder port, which the propane dealer opens while refilling the tank.

One-pound propane bottles do not have this valve, nor do they have a bleeder port. There is no way to safely judge when the smaller bottle is filled to the correct level or the proper pressure.

Legal Restrictions

A brand new bottle of propane is safe and legal. You can toss it in with your camping gear and head off for a weekend in the woods. Not so with a refilled one-pound bottle of propane.

The US Department of Transportation prohibits the transport of refilled one-pound propane bottles by anyone. It is highly unlikely for anyone to check your refilled canisters unless something goes wrong. If there is an accident while transporting a refilled bottle, the fines can reach $500,000 and 5 years in federal prison.

It is just not a responsible act to refill Coleman one-pound propane cylinders. For the small savings you recoup, both financial and personal risks are just too great.

How Do I Find a Recycler That Will Take My Bottles?

The easiest and quickest method of finding a recycler that will take one-pound propane bottles is to contact your local waste disposal agency. You city or county government offices usually keep a list of local recyclers who can handle propane cylinders.

Some local governments sponsor HHW days and set up special locations where HHW materials are accepted. These services are often free during these events, making them a great way to dispose of your Coleman one-pound propane tanks.

Other Options to Consider

As you empty your Coleman one-pound propane bottles, you should consider some alternatives when replacing them. Several companies are now selling refillable one-pound propane bottles as kits. These kits contain the equipment to safely and correctly refill these new style one-pound propane cylinders.

The refillable one-pound tanks have a bleeder valve on the tank and include a stand that holds your 20 lbs. propane tank upside down. A valve on the special connector between the tanks allows safe and controlled refilling.

Reuse Instead of Recycle

Not only does a refillable one-pound propane cylinder reduce costs, but it is also more environmentally sound and economical in other ways. Nationwide the propane industry estimates that 40 million one-use propane bottles are sold every year in the US. Forty million bottles represent a tremendous amount of steel that is potentially going into landfills.

It is much cheaper to buy propane in bulk, such as the 20lb cylinders that most people use to fuel their grill or camper trailer. Refilling a smaller bottle using the proper equipment translates those costs savings directly. Most of the cost of buying the one-pound disposable propane bottles is the steel’s cost in the bottle.

Do You Need Waste or Junk Removal Services?

Get free, zero-commitment quotes from pro contractors near you.

Be Aware and Responsible

Coleman disposable one-pound propane tanks are great at what they do. They offer the convenience of a clean, safe source of heat when camping. On the other hand, disposing of the empty cylinders responsibly can pose a problem.

We hope that this article gives you some understanding and direction in dealing with your empty Coleman one-pound propane bottles. Be Safe. Be Responsible. Be Aware!

Dennis Howard
Dennis Howard

Dennis is a retired firefighter with an extensive background in construction, home improvement, and remodeling. He worked in the trades part-time while serving as an active firefighter. On his retirement, he started a remodeling and home repair business, which he ran for several years.

More by Dennis Howard